Current Exhibition

Alice in Bookland

Fine Press Editions from the collection of Mark and Sandor Burstein

Curated by Mark Burstein

May 18-August 24

Alice in Bookland celebrates the 150th anniversary (“sesquicen-Tenniel”) of the original Macmillan publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Once thought of as a quaint Victorian children’s book, Alice is now the most quoted novel in existence, and among the most widely illustrated and translated. Since the publication of Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice in 1960, it is also one of the most studied by the academic community, and continues to be a much beloved presence in our culture, with many adaptations in cinema, theater, musicals, opera, and ballet, on websites and merchandise, and more. Lewis Carroll Societies thrive in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Brazil. Naturally, the book has a long bibliophilic history as well. Though collectors may especially desire one of the suppressed first printings, one copy of which sold for $1.5 million in 1998, this exhibition focuses on the fine press editions.

After the copyright of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandexpired in 1907, a host of editions, authorized and not, sprang forth. Many of these are on view in the exhibition. They include a version illustrated by Arthur Rackham, the limited edition bearing the illuminations of Salvador Dalí (1969), a Black Sun Press volume with pictures by Marie Laurencin (1930), and the Cheshire Cat Press editions (1988 and 1998), hand-typeset on handmade paper with fine bindings by Eleanor Ramsey.

Carroll wrote many works besides Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, including its 1872 companion Through the Looking-glass. Further out on the proverbial limb are thirty-six lithographs by Max Ernst, who illustrated one chapter of Wonderland, among other works, in his Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn; Carroll’s great nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” with images by Max Ernst,  Byron Sewell, Barry Moser, Nicholas Perry, Harold Jones, and others; and a volume called Notes de Zoologie(Baby Lone, 1988), illustrated by Pétra Werlé, with fine binding by Jill-Oriane Tarlau. A fine press book calledIllustrating Alice (Artists’ Choice, 2013) discusses the many artists across the globe and over the last century-and-a-half who have given their own particular interpretations to the Alice books. (A forthcoming volume, Alice in a World of Wonderlands: The Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece [The Grolier Club/Oak Knoll, Fall, 2015], has a bibliography that lists over 7,500 editions with more than 1,000 published illustrators in languages other than English!)

This exhibition comprises works from the Burstein Collection of Lewis Carroll, now numbering 3,500 books by, about, or inspired by Carroll—not to mention innumerable tchotchkes. It was started by Book Club of California member Sandor Burstein with a single volume he purchased in Portugal in 1974 to memorialize his trip, although his love for Carroll dates back to his childhood. His son, Mark, now curates the collection. The Book Club of California would like to gratefully acknowledge Sandor and Mark Burstein for making the exhibition possible, as well as BCC member Malcolm Whyte who suggested the exhibition and helped choose the books and design their display.

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A former Printer’s Devil of the Roxburghe Club, Mark Burstein claims to be genetically predisposed to loving the Alice books. He has served the Lewis Carroll Society of North America as chairman of the publication committee; editor of its magazine, Knight Letter; series editor of The Pamphlets of Lewis Carroll; vice president; and president. In addition, he has edited, introduced, or contributed to fourteen books on Carroll, including, as editor and art director, the forthcoming Annotated Alice: The 150th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (W. W. Norton, fall 2015) and Alice in Wonderland: Dodgson, Dalí, and the Fourth Dimension (Princeton University Press, fall 2015).

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